I just led two of the most productive and rewarding strategy sessions that my company’s had in its 10-year history. And they weren’t in our corporate office, a rented conference room, or even in our state.
Rather, we got out—way out—into the mountains of western Massachusetts.
Last week our management team flew up to the Berkshires, a beautiful region dotted with charming small towns and a plethora of cultural events. We did a ropes course and zip-lined across a mountain. We saw a classical concert. Enjoyed musical theater. Hiked a mountain. And we also knocked out the best ideas we’ve ever come up with more 10 hours of meetings interspersed through those events.
The Rocket Matter management team on top of a mountain.
Our lead engineer zip-lining over a bottomless chasm.
The success of our marketing team was not a fluke, either. This week our marketing team repeated the experiment. We visited the yoga retreat Kripalu and hiked through the woods. We watched an improv troupe and had front-row seats to a really fun musical. Again, despite all the fun we had, the ideas we generated were some of the freshest we’ve come up with. We moved the ball forward more than we had in an entire year.
The marketing team poses in front of Kripalu.
There’s something about getting out of the office that’s critical. The day-to-day operations make it impossible to see your firm with the perspective you need to make forward progress. As for going for walks in the woods with your team, science backs me up: Hiking through nature reduces anxiety and boosts moods, making it easier to open up and collaborate. Also, exposure to culture sparks the imagination—in fact, some academics maintain that culture drives economic and social growth.
Furthermore, experiences like these (not to mention the meals and drinks we shared) foster a bond, creating a healthy working rapport and level of openness and trust among colleagues that’s conducive to expressing and challenging ideas down the road.
Here are some tips for organizing an offsite retreat for your law firm:
- You don’t need to break the bank to pull this off. If flying your team is cost prohibitive, find a location you can drive to.
- An urban/rural mix works well, even if the urban aspect is a very small town. It’s nice to spend time in nature but have restaurants and other modern conveniences as well.
- If possible, mix in some cultural events: A trip to a museum, a concert, even a great movie.
- You don’t necessarily need to host your meeting in a conference room. We conducted ours in a rental home. Most computers can connect to a modern TV, and you can bring markers and gigantic Post-it easel pads for brainstorming.
- Learn basic brainstorming tools and exercises: SWOT analysis and Retrospectives are good places to start. For more ideas, see our post 6 Ways to Generate Ideas in a Group.
- If budget allows, consider hiring a facilitator trained in leading group discussions.